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Thousands attend Eid protests in Kashmir

September 12, 2010

The BBC’s Altaf Hussain: “The government is clueless as to what to do about it”

Tens of thousands of people across Indian-administered Kashmir have joined protests against Indian rule, following prayers to mark the end of Ramadan.

A government building and a police checkpoint were set on fire in separate rallies in the city of Srinagar.

The demonstrators carried green Islamic flags and chanted slogans demanding autonomy and freedom.

Seventy people have been killed in protests in Kashmir since June. But clashes are rare during Eid al-Fitr.

‘Lingering dispute’

Police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse the protesters who attacked the police checkpoint near the Hazrat Bal shrine on the outskirts of Srinagar on Saturday, and burned the nearby offices of the state police force and the electricity department.

“We want freedom. Go India, go back,” the demonstrators chanted. “Our nation, we’ll decide its fate.”

At least seven civilians and six police officers were injured, officials said.

“This is the first time that an Eid congregation has been converted into a protest,” a police statement said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Earlier, the influential leader of the moderate faction of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, had asked the tens of thousands of worshippers at the shrine to march to the centre of Srinagar.

“The protests are a form of referendum showing that Kashmiris want freedom from India,” he told them, after reading out the names of those killed in the past three months.

The APHC is an umbrella organisation of separatist groups which campaigns peacefully for an end to India’s presence in Kashmir.

The chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Yasin Malik, meanwhile said: “India should read the writing on the wall and take steps to resolve this lingering dispute forever.”

The Indian government has not commented on Saturday’s protests.

11 SEP 2010 : Bike Rally Protest On Eid in Kashmir

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